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Monday, November 14, 2022

My Conversation with NCAA Singles Champion Peyton Stearns; Americans Claim Seven Singles and Nine Doubles Titles on ITF Junior Circuit; J1 in Guadalajara Underway

Two weeks ago in Midland, I had the opportunity to talk with NCAA singles champion Peyton Stearns about her first five months as a professional for this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Stearns, who had gotten a late wild card, went on to reach the semifinals of the WTA 125 Dow Tennis Classic after we spoke, and is now at a career-high of 208 in the WTA rankings, setting herself up for the Australian Open qualifying if she and her coach decide to make the trip to Melbourne.

I asked Stearns about the strides she's made in her game since leaving Texas, what she misses about college tennis, and how she began her coaching arrangement with Romanian Davis Cup captain Gabriel Trifu. She also told me that she has set the bar for her younger brother Preston, a freshman at Ohio State, who will need to earn four NCAA rings to supplant her in their sibling rivalry.

Last week was another busy week on the ITF Junior Circuit, and Americans had one of their best weeks of the year, winning seven singles and nine doubles titles.

Seventeen-year-old Ashton Bowers, an Auburn recruit, won the biggest title, taking the singles championship at the ITF J2 in Bolivia. Bowers, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 15 seed Sol Ailin Larraya Guidi of Argentina 7-5, 6-4 in the final, her third career ITF Junior singles title and the first about the J4 level. Bowers is now at a career-high of 121 in the latest ITF junior rankings.

At the J3 in Cyprus, 17-year-old Tristan Stringer, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Luca Preda of Romania 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the final, his fourth singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit. Stringer and partner Matteo Lavizzari of Switzerland, the top seeds, defeated unseeded Nikolaos Bakirtzis and Christos Glavas of Greece 7-6(7), 6-2 for the doubles title, Stringer's first on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Sixteen-year-old Kate Fakih also won two J3 titles last week, in Mexico. In singles, the third-seeded Fakih won an all-US final, beating No. 12 seed Maren Urata 6-4, 6-1 for her second ITF Junior Circuit singles title. Fakih got her first doubles title on the circuit partnering with Sophia Webster, with the No. 6 seeds defeating No. 3 seeds Sarah L'Allier and Josie Usereau of Canada 7-5, 3-6, 10-8 in the final. It's Webster's second doubles title on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Top seeds Jose Murariu and Swiss partner Patrick Schoen won the boys doubles title in Mexico, downing No. 3 seeds Luis Carlos Alvarez Valdes and Jose Maria Garcia Uribe of Mexico 6-4, 7-6(1) in the final. It's the third ITF Junior Circuit doubles title for the 17-year-old Murariu.

Seventeen-year-old Ria Bhakta swept the titles at the J4 in El Salvador, with the top seed defeating Bela Martinez Rivero of Puerto Rico 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the singles final, her fifth singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit. 

Bhakta and partner Anika Lemus Maldonado of Guatemala, seeded No. 2, beat the third-seeded American pair of Maria Araoz-Gosn and Daniela Livson 6-4, 7-6(4) in the doubles final. Bhakta now has eight ITF Junior Circuit doubles titles.

Another sweep came at the J5 in Jamaica, where 15-year-old Summer Chandler earned her first two ITF Junior Circuit titles.  The unseeded Chandler defeated her doubles partner, No. 8 seed Linda Ziets Segura, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in another all-US final. The unseeded pair then teamed up for the doubles title, beating top seeds Jolene Fernandes of Canada and Alexa Martinez Mendoza of Mexico 6-1, 6-2. It's the third ITF Junior Circuit doubles title for the 16-year-old Ziets Segura.

Fifteen-year-old John Patrick Popowich won his first ITF Junior Circuit title in Jamaica, with partner Lucas Castillo Sanchez of Colombia. The unseeded pair defeated No. 4 seeds Sasha Colleu of France and Patrik Petera of the Czech Republic 6-0, 7-6(1) for the boys doubles title.

The fifth and final sweep by an American came at the J5 in Barbados, where 14-year-old top seed Katerina Shabashkevich collected her third singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, beating No. 3 seed Adelie Osher of Israel 6-1, 6-0 in the final. Shabashkevich picked up her second doubles title on the circuit with Rebecca Fiedler; the No. 2 seeds defeated top seeds Osher and Sara Rydholt of Norway 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

The unseeded American team of Dillon Beckles and Luca Benaibbouche won the boys doubles title, beating top seeds Nicholas Reeves and Lev Seidman 6-2, 5-7 13-11 in an all-USA final. It's the first ITF Junior Circuit title for the 16-year-old Beckles and the third for the 17-yea-rold Benaibbouche. 

Finally, at the J5 in Cameroon, unseeded 16-year-old Jane Dunyon won her first title, beating No. 2 seed Charnelle Fozo Cameroon 6-0, 6-1 in the girls singles final. Thirteen-year-old 
Lucy King Oyebog Atang and Cameroon's Stad Fani Fanyi Nformi, the top seeds, prevented yet another sweep by defeating unseeded Dunyon and Francesca Saroli of Switzerland 7-6(2), 7-5 in the girls doubles final. Oyebog Atang now has two ITF Junior Circuit doubles titles.

The big North American season-ending clay court swing begins this week at the J1 in Guadalajara Mexico. Although first round matches will extend late into the night, top boys seeds Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico and Yaroslav Demin of Russia have advanced to the second round. Cooper Williams, the top-seeded American at No. 4, also has won his first round match.

The girls top seeds Ella McDonald of Great Britain and Amelie Smejkalova of the Czech Republic are also safely through to the second round. The top-seeded American girl in the draw is No. 3 seed Kaitlin Quevedo.

There is also a J5 this week in San Diego, with Canadians Gianna Oboniye and Kaetan Mehta the top seeds. Mehta retired from his first round match today, trailing wild card Nathaniel Suh 5-4 in the first set.